Home > braves, buffalo, Buffalo Braves, randy smith > Jim Kelly reflects on USFL glory days

Jim Kelly reflects on USFL glory days

UnitedStatesFootballLeagueThe genre of extinct professional sports teams was on full display last night on ESPN television. The network’s 30/30 short film series took a long view at the United States Football League. The USFL played a spring schedule of pro football from 1983-85. The sub-plot includes a lengthy interview with former Buffalo Bill Jim Kelly, in the one hour segment entitled: ‘Small Potatoes: Who killed the USFL?’ Directed by filmmaker Mike Tolin, the documentary does an admirable  job demonstrating the impact the upstart league had on professional football history.

It’s easy to forget that Kelly spurned the Bills for the high octane, run and shoot offense of Mouse Davis and the Houston Gamblers, after being selected by Buffalo first round of the 1983 NFL draft. As the USFL MVP in 1984, Kelly set a league record with 5,219 yards passing and 44 TD passes. Kelly talks with pride about his epic game against Steve Young and the Los Angeles Express in 1984. That day Kelly completed 35 of 54 passes for a staggering 574 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The league’s story had some close parallels to the American Basketball Association, with renegade owners, wacky promotions, and innovations (instant replay, two point conversions, salary cap) that eventually made their way into the National Football League.

The heavy turned out to be Donald Trump, who purchased the New Jersey Generals and attempted to position the league by moving to a fall schedule, competing head to head with the NFL. Economics and dissention between Trump and other the other owners led to the league’s ultimate demise, but not without some interesting storylines.

This is the first of the 30/30 films that I’ve been able to sit down and watch, but with directors like Barry Levinson and Spike Lee directing other 30/30 productions, I’m ready for more. Oh, and if they aren’t already in the can, the Buffalo Braves and Randy Smith would be well suited for the 30/30 format. The Braves’ team history has intriguing storylines of its own, yet is unknown to most of the ESPN sports fan audience.

  1. kevin
    December 26, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    will trump and kelly purchase the bills and move downtown with retractable dome ?

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